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M&S drafts in Savile Row tailor for menswear push

Marks & Spencer will launch an exclusive menswear collection designed by Savile Row tailor Richard James next spring, as it looks to capitalise on an under-representation of British heritage menswear in international markets.

The collection, named Savile Row Inspired, will echo design stalwart Sir Terence Conran’s homewares debut for M&S in September. The range will use only British cloth and comprise shirts, ties and suits, priced between £299 and £599.

While Italian brands and styles have captured strong expat markets in Dubai, Singapore and Istanbul, the best of British menswear is under-represented, according to M&S chief executive Marc Bolland.

He said: “British styling and fit is well renowned but less distributed.”

Bolland added that M&S customers had been buying into pieces at a £499 price point, and upping the maximum price point to £599 would allow for “best quality buy-in, more style, British heritage and international opportunities”.

Savile Row Inspired would work well in new international stores next year, including Moscow, where several shops are due to open, added Bolland. He said there would be opportunities in-store and online.

He explained that work on clarifying M&S’s womenswear sub-brands earlier this year, which included making them more distinct and eradicating product overlap, had also pointed to international opportunities for menswear.

Though M&S is the menswear market leader in the UK, it has been lacking the capability to have international impact, according to Bolland.

He said: “Womenswear has brands that serve international and web opportunities with Per Una and Autograph,” said Bolland. “[Savile Row Inspired is] a brand that will allow us to be understood internationally and to trade in stores in Singapore and Dubai.”

M&S’s latest investment in menswear echoes the wider trend seen across the sector, with high street multiples ramping up their menswear offers and buying heavily into British heritage trends.

John Lewis is to launch one-off British menswear pieces in its Peter Jones store, while Primark chief executive George Weston has also earmarked menswear as having growth potential (opposite page). At the end of last month, Austin Reed chief executive Nick Hollingworth pointed to menswear sales outperforming womenswear at the release of its annual results.

In September, Drapers reported that British heritage fabrics including tweeds, woollen herringbones and checks were among the most popular at textile trade show Première Vision, heavily influencing the direction of autumn 12.

Former Morrisons boss Bolland unveiled the Savile Row Inspired concept, along with marketing materials, on Tuesday while presenting the retailer’s half-year results for the 26 weeks ended October 1. Pre-tax profits dropped from £348.6m last year to £320.5m this year. Like-for-like UK general merchandise sales fell 1.3%.

M&S revealed marketing costs for the period were £77m, up 20% from the comparable period last year. This was due to increased activity to push the revamp of Per Una and menswear sub-brand North Coast, as well as an overhaul of its core collection, including new labelling.

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